It’s surprisingly difficult to prove fire resistance in materials—mostly because it requires making a real-world-strength blaze without burning down your lab. So Samuel Manzello, a researcher for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, helped develop what he refers to as “The Dragon.” (Formally, it’s called the NIST firebrand generator.) Investigators fill the 12-inchdiameter, 5.5-foot-tall tubular contraption with wood chips, which are ignited by two propane burners. Used in combination with one of the world’s only fire-research wind tunnels, located in Tsukuba, Japan, testers can create firebrands that move at 32 feet per second. This allows researchers to simulate natural conditions such as wind-driven wildfires that rush into urban areas. NIST used the Dragon to support improvements in roofing to resist ignition, and to suggest changes to California’s fire code by testing the mesh size used to keep embers from entering building vents.